Foods To Avoid When You Have Diarrhea

1
Dairy Products

Milk food group still life
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It is important to know what to eat for diarrhea. But it is just as important to know what not to eat when you have diarrhea. The last thing you would want to do is to make matters worse by eating foods that could potentially aggravate your stomach or cause you to have even more intestinal spasms. Doing so could lead to more misery.

The first group of foods you will want to avoid are those made from milk. Even if you don’t suffer from lactose intolerance, it might be a good idea to avoid dairy products for a while after suffering from a bout of diarrhea. Diarrhea can cause a lessening of the amount of the enzyme lactase. Lactase is needed in order for the body to digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. If this “milk sugar” goes undigested, it can result in further symptoms of gas, bloating, nausea and diarrhea. Here are some common lactose-containing foods:

  • Milk, cream
  • Cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Sour cream

The one exception to this rule is yogurt. The probiotics within yogurt may actually help your body to heal. Choose plain yogurt and skip those with excess added sugar.

2
Fatty Foods

Fast food
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Foods with a high fat content can speed up intestinal contractions and cause a reaction to a system that is already sensitized, almost guaranteeing further trips to the john. 

Thus you will want to avoid foods like:

  • Creamy foods
  • Fast food
  • Fatty cuts of meat
  • Foods covered in gravy
  • Greasy foods
  • Fried foods

Better choices include lean protein, like white meat chicken or turkey, or broth-based soups.

3
Sugar-Free Foods

sugar-free candies
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Some artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes can have a laxative effect, as well as contribute to gas and bloating. So until you are feeling better, it is best to avoid:

  • Diet soda
  • Sugar-free candy
  • Sugar-free gum
  • Sugar substitute packets for coffee and tea

4
Gas-Producing Foods

Bowl of Baked Beans
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Certain foods have a well-documented reputation for increasing intestinal gas which could contribute to further diarrhea. Thus you will want to avoid gassy foods and choose non-gassy foods until you feel that your stomach has really settled down.

Here are some examples of the gassiest vegetables and legumes. You may want to skip these until you feel better.

  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Onions

Some better choices include leafy greens like spinach, green beans and zucchini. 

Here are some examples of some of the gassiest fruits. Again, you may want to skip these until things settle down.

  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Dried fruits (apricots, prunes, raisins)

If you think your system is up to eating some fruit, you may want to try blueberries, strawberries, honeydew or canteloupe melon, and/or pineapple.

5
Alcohol, Caffeine and Carbonated Beverages

assorted cocktails
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For healthy individuals, beverages containing alcohol, caffeine, and carbonation do not generally cause diarrhea. However, each has the potential to be a GI irritant, and thus are probably best avoided until your system returns to normal. 

Do not reach for flat soda either. Although your grandmother may have made that recommendation, the components in soda may actually make things worse. A better choice would be an oral rehydration solution, like Pedialyte, or just plain water. When you have diarrhea, it is important to replenish fluids lost from those repeated bowel movements, so drink up!

6
Unsafe Foods

beef on sticks being grilled
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Whether you have diarrhea or not, you should always make sure that you only eat food that has been safely washed, prepared and stored. Foods that are not safely prepared and stored put you at risk for a serious gastrointestinal illness.

Always observe good food hygiene:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before preparing or eating any food.
  • Thoroughly wash all raw fruits and vegetables.
  • Clean food preparation surfaces with hot soapy water before and after use.
  • Cook all foods to an internal temperature of 160 F.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers immediately after eating.

7
High-FODMAP Foods

Red apples in basket on dark wood
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If your diarrhea is something that you deal with a lot because you have diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D), you may want to avoid foods that are high in FODMAPs when you are experiencing an active flare. FODMAPs are carbohydrates found in many common foods that have been shown to trigger symptoms in people who have IBS. You may even want to give the low-FODMAP diet a try to see if that brings your symptoms under control.

Sources:

"Diarrhea" National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC)

Muir J & Gibson P. "The Low FODMAP Diet for Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Other Gastrointestinal Disorders" Gastroenterology & Hepatology 2013 9:450–452.

"When You Have Diarrhea U.S. National Library of Medicine Medline Plus

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